So... you want to take an island space at one of your annual trade shows.
Your company has grown from a simple 10’ inline with two sales people collecting leads, to a 20’ space with more function. You added a salesperson, integrated a 42” monitor on the backwall and included a special counter with storage for literature and give-aways. The exhibit even featured a small seating area for more in-depth conversations.
Now, the vice president of marketing is contemplating a 20’ x 20’ island. Well, as my dad would say, now it’s time to put your “big boy” pants on (get rid of the suspenders and use a belt) and take this seriously.
We’ve had this conversation many times with our customers. With an island, you are more than doubling the cost for the space portion of your budget alone. The space seems so much larger but it can get filled up rather quickly. Careful planning, budgeting and serious ROI projections are needed. Expectations are higher but they should also be realistic.
So... where should you start?
The first step is to identify the reason for taking the additional space. Is it to highlight a new product, allow for additional demonstration areas or more audio visual? Are you just looking to accommodate more visitors or want to get your logo higher than 8’ so your competition and customers know you have arrived?
Once you identify the reason, work with your trusted exhibit supplier/partner to establish goals. Having someone who truly understands your unique situation and can offer reasonable solutions to achieve your goals, is crucial.Careful review of the show manual will identify rules and restrictions that may affect your island display property. Jumping to an island space, especially if it’s your first time, will require experience and attention to detail.
Next it’s time to establish realistic budgets for all aspects of the project.This may include the design and production of booth properties, show services like flooring and electrical, inbound and outbound shipping, material handling and even travel and lodging. An experienced supplier/partner can assist with each of these line items. If you need to provide estimates early in the process, a number of industry surveys indicate that space cost typically accounts for one-third of the total show cost. For example, if your space costs $25,000, then $25,000 x 3 = $75,000 total show budget.
If management experiences sticker shock at this point, the initial thought might be “well, we can get it done cheaper”. But the question quickly becomes, at what cost? There are critical decisions to make with regards to purchase vs rental, or whether to move to a larger space at all. Once again, if you don’t have a trusted trade show professional partner, now is the time to find one. Ask colleagues and peers for recommendations. Interview candidates and choose one who has the experience, facilities and infrastructure that best matches your unique and specific needs. Now is not the time to start ordering out of a catalog.
One exercise that I’ve done with customers time and again is to map out an empty 20’ carpeted space in our warehouse. Then the customer can get a better idea of just how much space they will have, what exposures to aisles and fellow exhibitors will be apparent, and whether it makes sense to build from the ground up (towers) or from the ceiling down (overhead, hanging structures). If you have the space, I recommend you try this.
Last but not least, time is the tyrant. This should take two to three months of careful planning and execution. And really, the more time the better. Speaking from experience, a lot can be done in a few weeks but timely planning and implementation will save money and aggravation, and add years to your life.
So... if you’re looking to make that jump, maybe along with losing the suspenders, you may need a better pair of gym shoes to get there.